1835: Yale professors believe there are blue unicorns on the moon!

Also intelligent (if primitive) bipedal beavers and “man-bats”.

No, really.

Here’s a great write-up of the “Great Moon Hoax” perpetrated by the New York Sun back in 1835. In short, the Sun published a story that claimed that Sir John Herschel — a very real and prominent astronomer — had observed life on the moon:

The article continued on and offered an elaborate account of the fantastic sights viewed by Herschel during his telescopic observation of the moon. It described a lunar topography that included vast forests, inland seas, and lilac-hued quartz pyramids. Readers learned that herds of bison wandered across the plains of the moon; that blue unicorns perched on its hilltops; and that spherical, amphibious creatures rolled across its beaches. The highpoint of the narrative came when it revealed that Herschel had found evidence of intelligent life on the moon: he had discovered both a primitive tribe of hut-dwelling, fire-wielding biped beavers, and a race of winged humans living in pastoral harmony around a mysterious, golden-roofed temple. Herschel dubbed these latter creatures the Vespertilio-homo, or “man-bat”.

What’s interesting in the post is the account of how the Sun‘s article was received at Yale:

Yale College was alive with staunch supporters. The literati—students and professors, doctors in divinity and law—and all the rest of the reading community, looked daily for the arrival of the New York mail with unexampled avidity and implicit faith. Have you seen the accounts of Sir John Herschel’s wonderful discoveries? Have you read the Sun? Have you heard the news of the man in the Moon? These were the questions that met you every where. It was the absorbing topic of the day. Nobody expressed or entertained a doubt as to the truth of the story.

I bring this up because of the regular resurfacing of the claim — based on a 2nd party account in the Young Women’s Journal some 40 years after the fact — that Joseph Smith said “as early as 1837” that there were men on the moon, dressed “like Quakers”.  He may well have said that, but if he did, he likely was reacting to the Sun‘s article, especially given the cited timeframe. Beyond that, his claim — conservatively dressed humans — is a bit more sober and feasible than “blue unicorns”, “bipedal beavers” and “man-bats”.

Something to keep in mind the next time the issues is raised.  ..bruce..

P. S. And, no, this still isn’t Part 2 on LDS exobiology.

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